Click here for the full article by WYSOs Adriana Martinez-Smiley

Greenville Creek is home to a habitat that's becoming more sparse across the U.S. – Oak savannas. That’s one of the reasons why the Ohio Natural Areas & Preserves Association (ONAPA) came in to help.

“Our project for today is to help restore and reopen some of these little prairie openings that are amongst the cedars between here and Greenville Falls, just right in this area,” ONAPA Vice President Jennifer Windus said.

Earlier this month, the group partnered with Miami County Park District for a woody species removal to restore some of the prairie around Greenville Creek in Covington.

Stepping in after budget cuts

Ohio Natural Areas & Preserves Association was founded in 2014 in response to budget cuts to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. But the association is open to anyone concerned with Ohio’s natural areas.

It collaborates with local partners such as park districts and environmental nonprofits in order to restore important ecological sites across Ohio. But the organization also holds other events such as field trips, nature preserve monitoring and more.

In 2023, the organization completed over 75 ecological site restorations.

The Greenville Creek project was the first event held in partnership with the Miami County Park District. Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Scenic Rivers program staff also participated in the woody species removal on Feb. 15.

In total, 15 people came out for the project. The volunteers removed woody plants like honeysuckle and redbuds, and cut back on larger trees such as walnuts and cedars to open up the area.

“I wish our team was this big all the time, that's for sure,” said Haley Demmitt, land stewardship staff for the park district. “It's nice because normally when it's just Trevor and I, we have a chainsaw, we have our chemicals, and we cut and we treat right there, then it takes a long time.”

Between her and one other person, Demmitt said they’re responsible for about 2,300 acres of land.

She said she’s grateful for the support ONAPA was able to provide that day.

“It's pretty phenomenal. I feel like a weight off my shoulders in a sense, that's for sure,” Demmitt said.

Lydia Radcliffe, stewardship assistant with ONAPA, has worked with the organization for three years.

She said working with ONAPA showed her the impact collaborative land stewardship can have.

“Today's a great example. We've got partners from the state, we've got the county park district, we've got a nonprofit. And I've really loved that,” said Radcliffe. “Getting to see important conservation work that all different kinds of organizations all over the state are doing, and meeting people that are involved in really important work all over the state has been really neat.”

To see the list of future volunteer opportunities and events, visit the organization’s website.